"I don't know!" Hibiya yelled, standing on the pool edge as Shintaro waded in the pool to grab Hibiya's floaty from where it had been flung off on the ride, "you never asked!"

"We're literally at a water park, Hibiya!" Shintaro yelled back, handing Hibiya's floaty back to him while lamenting about now being wet, "It's pretty obvious that you have to have some semblance of knowledge on how to swim!"

"Well, why else do you think I have these damn things?" Hibiya shook his floaty at him, "They're not for decoration - that's for sure!"

Shaking off his wet flip-flops, Shintaro basically collapsed on one of the poolside benches. He wasn't anticipating how wet it would be, and, with a shout, slipped right off.

"Nice going," said the smug 13-year-old in front of him, awkwardly pulling his arm floaty back up to just-below his shoulders, "maybe you can try swimming on the floor."

"Shut up," Shintaro groaned, pushing him back up with a shaky arm, "at least I can swim."

Hibiya scrunched up his nose but plopped down beside Shintaro on the bench anyways. He didn't slip off, much to Shintaro's chagrin, though he was definitely brooding about the disaster that had been he and Shintaro's so-called 'plan'.

So the ride that he had seen before was apparently not just launching you out of the tube. You also had to swim through an underwater tunnel that had lights and all that. Of course, there was an air pocket above the water in the said tunnel, but apparently, Hibiya didn't know that. As a result, the kid nearly drowned.

Hiyori was the one that dragged him along the whole time, the ride she had been excited for suddenly turning into something frankly, terrifying.

"I'm an idiot." Hibiya sighed, burying his face in his hands, "I made a fool out of myself.

"I don't know about that," Shintaro responded, leaning back on the bench, "she seemed more… on a mission than mad at you."

Really - she had.

"Stay here, and don't do anything stupid," Hiyori had stated, basically throwing Hibiya on the bench and ignoring the floaty of his that had fallen off into the pool, "I'm going to find a towel or something."

Before Shintaro could even say anything regarding the situation, Hiyori had turned her sharp eyes on him, and Shintaro gulped.

"Take care of him, okay?" Hiyori had asked him, and the emotion in her eyes had made Shintaro just nod stupidly in response, "good, I'll be right back."

And so it was just the two of them now, slumped on the bench and dripping from the gross pool water.

What a day.

"I just can't believe I blew it," Hibiya sighed, slumping against the wall, "I just thought that since I've been through a lot worse, I'd actually be able to do something right this time, y'know? But here I am! Looking like an idiot once again! Great…."

Shintaro raised an eyebrow, Hibiya's words registering in his mind. A lot worse is a sentence that stuck with him. It's true, they had been through a lot worse. Shintaro knew that he was the type of guy that acted like the smallest things were the end of the world and that putting effort into things was pointless, and he guessed that Hibiya was the same way. He had seen the way that the kid tends to jump the gun and assume things, but at the same time, he was the type of kid that didn't hesitate to get back up and fight if he felt passionate enough about it.

So seeing him this.. down about it right now was making him a bit uncomfortable. He would've been uncomfortable anyway, given the context behind his sadness (ew, relationships), but now he felt a sad sort of uncomfortable, which was somehow worse. Geez, Momo and Ayano must really be rubbing off on him. He didn't know if that was a good thing or not, but he definitely felt different about stuff like this.

(But, talking like this had become a lot easier lately. So maybe, just maybe, it WAS a good thing).

"If you two have been through so much worse, do you really think this one thing has ruined everything?" Shintaro asked, shockingly earnest, "I don't know. Hiyori was pretty quick to make sure you were okay."

(He found irony in his words because in the two years he spent without Ayano, it was like his world had ended. But things are better now, and he was slowly coming to terms with that).

"She'd do that for anyone," Hibiya scoffed, "You're just trying to distract me from the fact that your plan sucked."

"I mean it," Shintaro stressed, and he's surprised to find that he does because sincerity has NEVER been his thing, "and I don't know. She was pretty quick to drag you out back there, and she seemed more worried than mad."

Hibiya pouted, and before the teenage-angst that Shintaro was not looking forward to spilled out, Shintaro stepped in:

"Besides, out of all of us, it's not like she has much of a choice," Shintaro reassured, knowing damn well that having a relationship with most of the other members of the Mekakushidan would be.. very much not allowed, "so don't worry about it."

Hibiya sighed, relenting a bit, burying his face in his hands, "I know, but have you seen the way she looks at Konoha?"

Ah, back to Konoha. There seemed to be a common way of thinking that Hibiya fell into: Try to be cool for Hiyori, end up looking stupid in front of Hiyori, Hiyori goes to Konoha, Hibiya is alone and everything had been for nothing, try to be cool for Hiyori, end up looking stupid…

Hibiya's a smart kid, but even Shintaro could read him like a book, which says a lot.

"Have you ever seen him 'look' back?" Shintaro asked earnestly, leaning back up against the wall, cringing a little at how the moisture seeped through his clothes, "Really. I love the guy, but his mind is somewhere else ninety percent of the time."

He wondered what the clad-in-white boy was doing now. He had never seen Konoha in a water park before, let alone ever seen him swim. Konoha's the type of person to sink like a rock and just.. accept it. He's also the type to somehow get stuck in a stack of the floaty rings... Maybe that's why they hadn't seen him today. Uh oh.

"I guess," Hibiya said, peeking through the cracks in his fingers. The younger boy sighed, slumping even farther forward. "But, I can't help but be nervous, y'know? As much as I hate him, having super strength is pretty cool."

At his words, Shintaro hummed in agreement, taking a sip from his soda.

"That's true. Who knows what I'd be doing if I had that power.." Shintaro wondered, though he knew that he'd probably still be surfing the internet… though maybe with four times his usual mouse-clicking speed. That would be pretty cool, especially for the gacha games that he liked.

"No wonder she likes him..." Hibiya trailed off, staring down at the tile floors with an intensity that Shintaro hadn't seen from the younger boy in a while.

He only really had his shoujo manga to turn to in terms of giving advice. He doesn't know how much Hibiya would appreciate it if he did but...

"You're still the one she's hanging out with, you know."


"She's hanging out with you, not him," Shintaro shrugged, "that says something, right? And you're not old enough to be in this side of the water park, so it's not like she's keeping you around for something like that or for bag holding either."

Hibiya sighed, "…part of me thinks that too, but it still kinda sucks to mess up in front of her all the time. She's already so pretty and popular.. doesn't she deserve to hang around someone who can handle doing the things she likes? Someone as cool as her?"

Part of this conversation made Shintaro feel a tad better about not completing or caring about school. School kids nowadays were way too wrapped up in their little hierarchies to see the sensible sides of anything.

Good thing he's basically a genius…. Well, matter not in matters like this or with anything regarding women, but he's still a genius. He might as well prove that.

"Is it really about what she deserves though?" Shintaro shrugged, leaning his head back against the tile wall, "sure, you might think that she deserves better, and maybe she does! She's rich and all.." Shintaro trailed off, seeing Hibiya shrink in on himself from the corner of his eye. That probably wasn't the right thing to say. "Uh, but shouldn't it be about what she wants to do?"

If everything was about what Shintaro deserved then, well, he probably wouldn't still be here and kicking. If it was about what he wanted, he'd probably ask to go home the second he was able to.. after this whole relationship mess.

"Still though! It'd be cool to impress her for once." Hibiya argued, slumping over with his chin resting on his hands. He was still super drenched, which did nothing to help his mood. They probably should've brought the towels with them instead of just leaving them with Momo.

"That might be true, but you're quick to assume what will impress her instead of just asking her yourself. Who knows," Shintaro shrugged, "females are… something, that's for sure."

Hibiya owlishly blinked at him, as if the thought had never occurred to him before. Holding someone on a pedestal allowed premeditating notions of the person to thrive, he supposed.

"And it was our plan, by the way. I didn't factor in the fact that you couldn't swim because you never mentioned it. So that's on you."

Hibiya opened his mouth to retort, but before he could, he was cut off by someone.

"Hey, you guys!"

Both Hibiya and Shintaro froze when they heard the all-too-familiar female voice yell out from behind them. Shintaro looked down at the younger boy, who locked eyes with him. With a nod, the two slowly turned around and were greeted with the sight of an orange-haired girl making her way towards them.

"Hi, Mo-"

"Hey, Auntie."

That moment marked the second time that day that Shintaro saw Hibiya get smacked by a girl. Who knows, maybe if they got Kido in the mix that tally would go up to three.

"The second I track you both down to give you juices, and this is how you treat me?" Momo padded over to the two boys, though now a juice box was held threateningly in her grasp, "Maybe I should think twice instead of being nice next time."

Hibiya stuck his tongue out at her, and she did the same. Just how old were they again?

"Anyways, What have you two been up to? You guys go swimming in the pool yet?" Momo looked at Hibiya as she said this, probably because she knew that Shintaro would rather die than swim in a crowded pool. She handed the two of them some of the juice boxes that had been in her shoulder bag. Shintaro wrinkled his nose, he wasn't the biggest fan of juice (after all, how could juice ever compare to Coca-Cola, the world's best drink?

Hibiya sputtered at the mention of swimming, and, forgetting his internal monologue about Coca-Cola's superiority, Shintaro smirked, knowing damn well why.

"Swimming isn't a good idea for him," Shintaro smugly said as he took one of the juice boxes, ignoring the dark look Hibiya sent him, "It didn't end well last time."

"Huh, why not?"

Shintaro and Hibiya looked at each other. Hibiya had a don't you dare look in his eyes, and Shintaro grinned, knowing that if he said anything about the situation, Hibiya's reaction would be hilarious. But before he could answer her question, Momo seemed to see someone behind Shintaro, because she beckoned whoever it was over.

"I'm back," Hiyori announced, holding a blue towel in her hand. She didn't wait for anyone to acknowledge her before immediately thrusting the towel at Hibiya, who yelped in surprise.

"H-hiyori!" Hibiya sputtered, pulling the towel off of where Hiyori had dumped it on his head, "you're back!"

"Really?" Hiyori deadpanned, draping her own towel over her shoulder, "I literally just said that, Hibiya."

Shintaro didn't know why he and Hibiya didn't bother to bring towels in the first place. Sure, he wasn't planning on getting wet, but a bit of foresight would've definitely helped now.

Shintaro jumped when something fuzzy touched his arm, and looked over to see Momo nudging him with one of the pink towels that she probably had taken out of her bag. She wasn't even looking at him, her eyes were trained on Hibiya and Hiyori. Shintaro rolled his eyes at her antics, but took the towel for himself, a little grateful that Momo gave it to him.

In front of him, Hibiya looked down at his own blue towel, and to the pink towel that Momo had just given Shintaro. Something didn't add up here - Hiyori didn't just grab this towel from Momo's stash...

"Hiyori, did you just buy this?" Hibiya asked, and Shintaro was surprised to find a frown on his face instead of his usual lovesick expression, "Really, you didn't need to-"

"I did. You clearly didn't have one, and, knowing you, you'd probably get sick from whatever's in the water," She rolled her eyes at the thought of Hibiya and his tendency to catch colds, before she looked back at him, "besides, it isn't a problem at all. It was only like, 1000 yen."

Hibiya still didn't look convinced. Hiyori sighed, a pushed his towel closer to him.

"Really, Hibiya, it isn't a problem at all," For once, Hiyori looked a bit embarrassed. She shifted her gaze down to the floor, awkwardly staring at the pool tiles before shaking her head, seemingly one that's quick to recover, "just.. Don't do something stupid like that just because I want to, okay?"

Hibiya stared at her for a moment, before a small smile broke out on his face.

"Thanks, Hiyori." Hibiya said bashfully, holding the towel a little tighter, "I won't."

For a moment, Hiyori glanced at him with an emotion Shintaro couldn't decipher, before turning away and focusing on her own towel, "..Good. Now dry yourself off; you look like a mess."

With her words, Hibiya seemed to remember what a towel was for, and nodded before drying his hair.

...What the hell was Shintaro even supposed to say in this situation? "Hey, I got wet too? Where's MY newly-boughttowel?". It didn't help that he could feel Momo glancing at him as they both listened in on the exchange. He couldn't bring himself to look at her though, knowing that she would definitely try to rope him into more relationship-help things.

"Are you guys done?" Shintaro asked, adjusting his jacket, "I've kind of had enough of this."

Hibiya glared at him, and Hiyori scoffed. Shintaro could almost feel Momo's frown.

But instead of chiding him like she usually would, Momo took the opportunity to talk.

"Well, now that you guys are settled, could you two save that table over there for us? My mom wanted me to talk to Shintaro about something," Momo asked the two kids, smiling apologetically at them, "we'll be over there really soon though!"

Shintaro raised an eyebrow at the mention of their mom. Huh, why didn't she mention that earlier? Was she also preoccupied with the fumbling preteens in front of them? Well, whatever; If their mom wanted something, then their mom WANTED something. It must be important.

"Sure!" Hiyori chirped, being the little "wow, I'm Momo's biggest fan!" suck up that she was, "Do you need someone to take those things from you?"

"Can you carry them all?" Momo asked, shifting the weight of the items in her arms and her bag.

"No problem!" Without skipping a beat, Hiyori took some of the items from Momo, turned around, and dumped them into Hibiya's arms.

Hibiya stumbled under the unexpected weight of the items now in his arms, "Huh, why me?! You're the one that offered!"

"Because you're a boy, duh," Hiyori said, her shit-eating-grin enough to rival Kano's before she skipped towards the table, leaving a grumbling Hibiya to follow her. Shintaro was starting to feel bad for the kid. He didn't think that Hiyori kept him around to be her lackey.. but Shintaro could also see why Hibiya would think that.

He watched the kids scurry off for a moment, before turning back to his sister, "So.. what did mom want?"

"You're kidding, right?" Momo said with an incredulous look. When Shintaro shrugged, she threw her hands up, "that was an excuse to talk to you without them being here!"

Ever the man that knows social cues, Shintaro shrugged one again, "Oh."

"You're absolutely hopeless," Momo said, turning back to the kids who were now putting everything down on the table. The second the kids were seated, Momo whirled back around to face him, the sickeningly sweet smile that was on her face before had morphed into a serious expression, "What did you do this time?"

Shintaro took a step back, surprised by her sudden outburst, "What? How come you're so quick to assume that I did something wrong?"

"Well, for starters, you're wearing your jacket in a water park, so I'd say that I'm right to assume that other things will go wrong." Momo huffed, hands on her hips, "Also, Hibiya looked really upset. So something obviously happened between those two."

"Even if things did happen, how do you know that I had something to do with it?" Shintaro held his hands up defensively when the orange-haired idol sent him a scathing look, genuinely having no idea what the hell was going on.

"You're their guardian!" She said frustratedly, throwing up her hands, "you're supposed to look after them!"

"I didn't want to be!" Shintaro defended, "Hiyori literally called me her warrant! This was a non-consensual affair!"

"God," At his words, Momo sighed, pinching the space between her eyes, "just, tell me what's their deal, okay? Hibiya's absolutely smitten with her and I know that he isn't good with girls, like, at all."

"I thought you couldn't stand him?" Shintaro said smugly, remembering how she smacked Hibiya when he called her 'auntie', "right now, to me, it sounds like you care about him."

"Of course I care about him!" Momo huffed, crossing her arms across her chest, "he's like the little brother that no one wants to have but is stuck with anyway!"

"So kind of like you?" Shintaro smirked, laughing a little as Momo shoved him a little at his comment.

"You're just mad that he's actually doing something about his feelings instead of repressing them," Momo shot back in all seriousness, but there was a hint of a smile in her eyes, "I'm surprised you did end up tagging along with them though."

"One: don't hate me because I'm right," Shintaro finally said, shrugging, "and two: I didn't have much of a choice in the matter. You've seen how that Hiyori girl can get."

"Yeah, I have," Momo stressed, "And that's why I want to know what the hell happened so Hibiya doesn't end up doing something that he'll regret."

At her words, Shintaro shrugged again. Silence ensued, and the two stared at each other in a way that would look crazy to strangers but looked normal to anyone who knew the pair. This was the sibling stare - a stare developed through years of making mud balls together and years of threatening to tell mom whenever the other refused to do something. It's a stare created through challenge.

"Hibiya said he wanted to impress Hiyori," Shintaro relented, having always fallen prey to the stare, "so I told him that he should go on the scariest ride with her to impress her."


"…That scary ride apparently involved swimming in the dark."


"Hibiya apparently half-drowned and made a fool of himself the entire time. Kinda funny, if you'd ask me."

"…and all of that was because of your advice?" She put her hands on her hips, leaning forward with her face nearly pressed against his, "seriously?"

"Yes..?" Shintaro leaned away, taking his eyes away from his sister's way too close face. If it was any other girl he would've died from the contact alone, "what else was I supposed to do? Tell him to do something like buy her flowers? At a water park?"

"You're the worst," Momo sighed, leaning back and then pinching the space between her eyes, "and they say that I'm the dumb sibling."

"How was I supposed to know that he couldn't swim?" Shintaro defended pathetically, waving his arms towards the kids in question, "this is a water park!"

"There are first times for everything, like learning how to swim." Momo countered, and though she wasn't specific, he knew what she was talking about.

(Ambulances, his mother crying, his dad's body covered by a white sheet, finding his barely alive sister three days later).

As if Momo could sense his distress at her words, she sighed.

"Sorry for bringing it up. I just... I don't know," Momo muttered, before running a hand through her hair and pulling strands out of her otherwise perfect ponytail, "I just think they should have a little support out there, y'know? They're just kids. They deserve some sort of wise advice and happiness... Especially after all they've been through."

"Their happiness doesn't have to be your concern, though," Shintaro pointed out, crossing his arms over his chest, "going out of your way for others is exhausting and, frankly, only causes you to suffer." He would know. But he also knows that not doing anything can cause you hell. The cycle of happiness is a cycle that he, the boy with an IQ of 168, could never properly fathom. He's depressed, for christ's sake. It's hard to go out of your way for others when you can barely get out of bed in the morning.

(But that doesn't mean that he hasn't been trying to get better. He watches movies with Momo when he has the energy for it. He's been trying to rebuild the burnt bridges between him and Takane. He helps Marry make flowers when there's no one else to help. Hell, he even talks to Kano. Well, only when Ayano's there to mediate. But it's still a thing!)

"That doesn't mean that I shouldn't try if I can!" Momo chirped, before spinning around and putting up a peace sign, "happiness is a curious thing, but it's worth it if it makes you love tomorrow!"

"Who told you that?" Shintaro raised an eyebrow, finding the words familiar. There was a little voice in his mind telling him the answer to his question, but he didn't want to believe it.

"I dunno, a friend of yours?" Momo grinned cheekily, a knowing look in her eyes as she watched the color drain from his face.

"Ayano?" Shintaro groaned, facepalming when he realized just who she was talking about, "seriously?"

"Y'know, you should really listen to her more often, she does make some good points!" Momo grinned up at him, clearly reveling in the embarrassment that she was undoubtedly causing him.

"You two idiots together only make more trouble for the rest of us." He remembered all the times where he had to tutor the two of them. Those memories were traumatic enough, especially when Momo asked if a bear was an aquatic animal and when Ayano said that there were 26 numbers in the alphabet. Together, they probably had one brain cell.

(But he'd have to say that it's a good brain cell, especially after seeing the way that people's faces light up whenever they talk to them).

"Nah, you're just worried that I'll show her your baby pictures," Momo grinned in a way that made Shintaro's blood run cold, "by the way, I still have the photo of the time mom forced you into one of my dresses."

God. Not that photo. Shintaro groaned, wishing there was a bed behind him so he could collapse on it and surrender like the true man he was.

Momo stuck her tongue out at him, and he did the same. So much for acting their age.

"I'm too tired for this…" Shintaro groaned after a moment, still feeling weak in the knees and uncomfortably damp from the wet tiles he had been leaning against, "But.."

"But?" Momo questioned, a curious look in her eyes.

"...I promised Ayano that I'd try to do better," He paused awkwardly, eyes shifting back towards the tile floor, "so I guess that's why I'm still here."

Momo was silent for a second, but then a grin brighter than all of the smiles he had seen from her that day broke out on her face, "I'm glad, Onii-chan. Really glad."

..Okay. That's enough sibling bonding for today. His skin itched under his jacket and he felt way too warm. He was positive that the stare was causing him to burn up more than the sun that shone through the glass ceiling was.

Sensing his discomfort, Momo relented, handing him the rest of the juice boxes and ignoring his squawk of indignation at the prospect of carrying all of them.

"Fine, let's just get back to the table. I'll talk with them later," She winked at him and headed towards the table.

And Shintaro, arms trembling from the weight of the juice boxes and the conversations that he had just had, had no choice but to follow.